Nobody bothered to tell us, really, but lockdown is definitely over. But equally no one really knows when things will be back to normal either.
Temporary local lockdowns aside, we’re clearly inching back towards normality. Although the truth is that, until we have either completely eradicated the virus or developed a working vaccine for it, the end is still a long way off. In the meantime, on we plod.
Monday 27th July
More than four months since lockdown began, it’s noticeable how much less I have to comment on nowadays. Things are gradually returning to normal. It feels like I’ve written about everything else already. Or, if I haven’t, I’ve lost the will to write about it in an original way that doesn’t conclude with one of the following:
- Will X ever end/begin?
- The government is incompetent. Or corrupt. Or, increasingly frequently, both.
- Too many people are being stupid. Or they’re too cautious.
- Everyone is different. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.
- We need to get used to the ‘new normal’ and deciding exactly what we want that to look like.
I bet I end up concluding this post in one of the above ways.*
Saturday 1st August
We are Arsenal fans. Our next-door neighbours – the ones with whom we share a missing fence panel between our gardens – are Chelsea fans. So, of course, it made sense for us to watch the FA Cup final between our two teams together.
(Socially distanced, of course. Will there ever come a time when it’s longer obligatory to state this about every social gathering we have?)
So we parked ourselves on separate sofas in our living room as the game started. (It was a bit like segregating home and away fans into separate stands, I suppose.) Chris and I cracked open some beers. The boys watched with us and went out to kick a ball around at half-time.
It was fun, and it felt properly normal again. It’s the first time we’ve had anyone else inside our house since lockdown began. So, of course, the morning was a frantic dash to make the house look presentable for visitors in a way we haven’t had to do for the past five months. (I haven’t missed doing that.)
Friday 7th August
Newbury is less than four miles from our house. And yet it has been over five months since I last visited.
So it was strangely familiar and yet unfamiliar when I arrived there this evening for a dads’ night out at the pub. The town centre, while far from deserted, was noticeably quiet for a Friday evening. A few shops remain closed, most likely permanently. A block of residential apartments, whose construction was just starting when I last walked past, is now almost complete.
Strangest of all, though, was walking through the pub en route to the beer garden. At 8pm on a pre-pandemic Friday, it would be standing room only. Tonight there were four occupied tables. No music, no familiar clinking of glasses, no hubbub of chatter. As much as a social night out was another step on the road back to normality, it was also a reminder that we are still a very long way from what we would recognise as normal.
Having said all that, it was lovely to have a proper conversation with friends face-to-face rather than on a laptop screen. It’s the first time I’ve met up with anyone socially in a public location since this all kicked off. And I didn’t have any anxiety about it at all. Progress.
A world of PPE
I’ve visited both the doctor’s (for a physio appointment) and the dentist’s this week. Full COVID measures are in place. Hand sanitiser stations everywhere. Separate entrance and exit doors. Plastic screens at reception. Air purifiers to recycle and filter air at the dentist’s. And full PPE: face shields, gloves and (in the case of the dentist) surgical gown and proper industrial respirator masks.
Normal – and yet not normal at all.
It’s hard to imagine having to work in this amount of kit all day, let alone in 30-degree heat. And to think some people continue to complain about wearing a mask for 30 minutes in Tesco …
Saturday 8th August
We had our second family quiz this evening. Our kids have really engaged with the idea of virtual quiz nights during lockdown. They’ve created kids’ rounds for our regular Saturday evening calls and this has carried over to our own family events.
This has been a real godsend. With no holiday clubs this summer, they’ve been stranded at home. And while Heather is finishing work early to spend time with them, they’ve still needed activities to keep them busy during the day. Setting them projects such as devising their own quiz rounds has entertained them all week.
It also means their PowerPoint skills are now better than mine.
Sunday 9th August
Today was our 23rd wedding anniversary. Yay us. We didn’t go out for dinner but we did celebrate at home with champagne, macarons and a movie. (Yesterday, in case you were interested. Lightweight, sugary but satisfying – a bit like the macarons.)
Other aspects of life continue to return to normal. We had been planning to visit my parents today and sit outside in their garden. But the distinctly un-British 30-plus degree heat kiboshed that idea. We’ve pushed it back to next weekend.
And our regular Saturday evening quiz call got bumped to today and then cancelled altogether. With normal activities resuming and holidays pending, it’s time to accept that our comfortable lockdown routines are coming to an end. We’re planning one last hurrah next Saturday, so we go out with a bang rather than a whimper.
From eternity to here
It’s now nearly 20 weeks since the start of lockdown – close to five months. That’s a huge amount of time in anyone’s book. Essentially, it’s 5% of Kara’s life to date and more like 10% in terms of what she can actually remember.
At the beginning of lockdown everyone was hoarding toilet rolls and antibacterial wipes. We were watching Jamie Oliver’s lockdown-based series Keep Cooking and Carry On. The roads were all but deserted and eerily quiet, like the opening scenes of 28 Days Later. People were hoping lockdown would be over by the long Easter weekend, or at least by the VE Day 75th anniversary in early May.
Never mind the kids. The above feels like an eternity ago even to me, and I’m only a few weeks short of my 50th birthday.
And yet we’ve been so busy. We started lockdown with lofty ambitions to blitz our big list of household jobs and catch up on all the TV shows that everyone else has been raving about on Netflix. We’ve barely scratched the surface on either. In fact, we’ve gone backwards.
This morning, I passed 200 miles in my car since my last fill-up, nearly five months ago. I normally average that distance every five days.
There are still several things I haven’t ticked off my personal list.
I haven’t done a proper shop, other than visits to our Sainsbury’s Local and one trip to B&Q. The thought of wandering around a shopping mall – something I ordinarily love – still lacks any real appeal.
I still haven’t returned to the gym since they reopened two weeks ago. A part of me is itching to get back but I still have reservations. I’m targetting the beginning of September after we’re back from France. That feels more comfortable to me.
All the above leaves me constantly asking myself one question. The government never actually declared when the national lockdown ended. (They’ve been too busy trying to convince us it started a week earlier than it did.) At what point do we decide that we are ‘back to normal’? How different will the new normal be to the old one?
And what happens to those who continue to shield at home – such as my parents – or are further down the curve than the rest of us? Will we leave them behind as we chase down normality? Will we forget about them?
I’m anticipating that 80% of my life will return to how it was pre-lockdown. But there are several things that are either likely to change (e.g. working more from home) or that I would definitely like to keep/change (e.g. family quiz nights, weekend walks).
I have no desire for things to go back to the way they were. I want life to be different – and better. This seemingly eternal lockdown has gone on long enough to make some of those changes permanent. At least, I hope so. Bring on the new normal. Let me know when we get there, okay?
* Oops. I did, didn’t I?
Previous ‘Life under lockdown’ entries